CHEYENNE – Behind eight ace serves from Enna Masaki, the Western Nebraska Community College made quick work of McCook Community College in the quarterfinals of the Region IX tournament Wednesday afternoon at the Region IX tournament in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The Cougars, 25-9 overall, finished with 12 ace serves and 47 kills in earning the straight set win over the Indians 25-15, 25-21, 25-19 to advance to the semifinals on Thursday. WNCC will face Northwest College at 4 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Region IX championship game on Friday. Northwest swept past Otero Junior College 25-23, 25-20, 25-23.
“I thought we played really well,” head coach Binny Canales said. “This was one of our better matches. We played under control. We served tough. We were blocking well. We were passing solid.”
A big key was the serving game where the team registered 12 total ace serves. Masaki had eight of the aces while serving for 10 points. Jayme Commins tallied three aces on seven points, while Kaile Tuisamatatele had one. Adia Sherbeyn had eight points in the win, while Tuisamatatele and Ana Costas each had six.
“We were serving tough,” Canales said. “We were looking at their serve receive, looking at the place to serve and the best place that would help us. We are now focused on the winner of Otero and Northwest.”
WNCC did have big service runs that opened up the first set. McCook led 4-3 before four Sherbeyn service points for an 8-4 lead and then Tuisamatatele served four for a 13-7 lead. Maskai added five for a 19-8 lead and WNCC won the opener 25-15.
The second set also saw strong serving as Commins served five points for a 7-3 lead. WNCC led 115-8 and 21-12 before McCook sliced the lead to 21-18. Masaki had two points for a 23-18 lead and WNCC won 25-21.
WNCC started the third set at 4-0 after three Ana Costas points. McCook came back to take a 12-11 lead only to watch Masaki serve three points to put the Cougars up 15-12. WNCC led 254-18 after two Sherbeyn point and won 25-19.
WNCC played well all the way around. Four Cougars finished with double-figure kills. Sarena Bartley led with 12 kills followed by Tuisamatatele had 11 points, while Leslie Mamia-Lagafuaina and Amryi-Grace Paris each had 10.
Costas led the team on defense with 19 digs while getting six points. Masaki finished with five digs, and 33 set assists to go with her 10 points and eight aces.
Also for the Cougars, Logan Belford had three points, Commins had four digs and two set assists, and Masaki with two solo blocks.
Canales said the win helps the team’s confidence after the Cougars dropped two of three last week, falling in five sets to Laramie County Community College and No. 5 Iowa Western.
“This win really helped us. It gave a lot of confidence,” he said. “They were attacking the ball well and they feel good about themselves.”